Alf McCreary: People of all faiths and none will be horrified by Paris blaze
The devastating fire which has torn apart the historic Notre Dame Cathedral will horrify all people of faith around the world, as well as the French nation and the Catholics in Paris who worship regularly at this icon of European Christianity.
The spectacle of this great building burning before our very eyes on television was reminiscent of the dreadful pictures of the Twin Towers on fire in New York on 9/11.
However, unlike New York, the cause of this fire is yet unknown and may well be an accident rather than something more sinister, at a time when a number of churches in France and elsewhere have been attacked by those people who see Christianity and Christians as their enemy.
The devastation of Notre Dame is depressing not only for millions of Christian believers but also for many millions of other faiths and of none who have visited this elegant Grand Dame of Paris as a tourist attraction.
As a student just out of Queen's University more than 50 years ago, I went to Paris on one of my first trips abroad, and it was then I fell in love with Notre Dame as one of the greatest Gothic cathedrals imaginable.
I have visited Notre Dame every time I have been in Paris down the decades to gaze yet again at its wonderful architecture and stained glass.
On my most recent visit a couple of years ago, I noticed for the first time a commemoration of the bond between France and Britain in two World Wars, and the symbol of the poppies, which represented the sacrifice of the men and women of both nations.
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In the days and months to come we will find out more about what happened last night in Paris, but in the meantime we can only hope for better days for a rebuilt cathedral and also pray for a nation and its people who have been so wounded by this calamity.